CLASSICAL MUSIC Maxwell Davies premiere Queens Hall

The trees behind the Queens Hall in Edinburgh have turned yellow and brown, reminding you of those composers, such as Brahms and Bartok, who passed into a mellow, autumnal phase in their late creative years. And especially of Bartok, since the new Strathclyde Concerto by Peter Maxwell Davies is a concerto for orchestra, full of reminiscences of the Hungarian's essay in the same genre.

Those who knew Davies's music 30 years ago would not have imagined him entering an autumn of song, sentiment and atmosphere. But then, many people found it hard to believe that he would get through all 10 concertos commissioned by Strathclyde Region. Yet this concerto is No 10; and Strathclyde Region has ceased to exist.

There are long, spiritual laments and sonorous, low melodies, accompanied by glittering woodwind and snarling brass. There is a kind of simple drama, with the shriek of high trumpets and occasional military timpani. And continually, the clouds part to reveal pools of soft string harmony that lead to further passionate wind cantilena, set against moody tremolandi and framed by textures that are growling, shadowy, watery.

Davies, in his pre-concert talk, told us he had thought of the giuoco delle coppie from the Bartok work when he conceived his first movement. Certainly, the instruments tend to appear in pairs and groups rather than alone, but it lacks Bartok's systematic tour of the orchestra.

The second movement, a slow-motion sarabande accompanied by plucked chords in the cellos, with a long, meditative invocation for two flutes and a pastoral cor anglais, may recall Bartok's "interrupted intermezzo". Often there is a glow of rich harmony, as though the music were rediscovering the common chord. It is an elegiac landscape, a kind of sentimental nature music that may also have for its ancestors English composers such as Britten and Elgar.

The finale is in an emotionally lower key. It appears to be a continuous variation on what the composer calls a "silly tune", announced at the start by the piccolo. The skirl of Scotch snaps reminds you of Davies's biggest hit, Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise. But where the earlier Davies might have bathed his Scottish reel melodies in bitter irony, this piece has a childlike pleasure in its own absurdism, rocking and rollicking with healthy good cheer.

And, in case anyone is still unable to believe in the composer's autumnal mood, there is finally a long valedictory passage in which each of the earlier Strathclyde soloists is given a short solo: oboe, cello, trumpet and horn, and so on up to the strange solo group of the ninth concerto (piccolo, contrabassoon, cor anglais). The whole work ends in a whiff of vapour, as though unwilling to close the door on this extraordinary series.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra played with brio, and the authenticity you would expect: all 10 concertos have been written with them specifically in mind.

Raymond Monelle

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before